Garwulf's Corner

Garwulf's Corner
Emails from the Edge: The Final Slice (Redux)

Robert B. Marks | 27 Sep 2017 19:00
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Usually, I really look forward to these installments, but I must admit that this is the exception. Once again, it's time to bring the column to a close - at least for now - and, as with the last time, there really is only one proper way of doing that - with your words.

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Garwulf #51, "Hype Wars," generated a short yet interesting discussion. In a long post that very much deserves to be read in its entirety, Imperioratorex Caprae noted:

Too many game publishers/devs are[...]taking something either wildly out of context in a video and presenting it up front when it may either not actually exist in their game or if it does, ends up significantly reduced in scope, or non-existent, or even obscurely featured. What I mean is they can show you a piece of a game, which will lead you to believe said piece is common, or a major feature when it could actually end up on the cutting room floor, or cut significantly enough to be barely noticeable... or in the case of some features in No Mans Sky, lost in the vastness of a procedurally generated universe to the point where proving its existence in game may actually never happen.

[...]

...we game fans need really to scale back our own expectations for these things. Be realistic in our hype, if that is possible (or just not hype things up but rather compare what we're promised to what we've found so far to be possible).

If we temper our feelings, our hype, then if someone does exceed the expectations, does manage to break through the tech barrier somehow and deliver a massive experience that shifts our view of the genre, well then that's a wonderful thing. But we all need to temper our scopes, developers/publishers and customers alike. Else we're doomed to disappointment, and developers/publishers are doomed to lose goodwill from those target customers. It may even get to the point that publishers won't take chances on a game that might actually be able to deliver, simply because of previous failures from other devs due to the hype and hubris, and due to the loss of trust in the genre.

Thunderous Cacophony pointed out:

No one is ever going to be 100% transparent about their development process, if only because that is impossible to keep up with. On a similar note, if they don't promise anything until it's set in stone in the game, they're going to say nothing for many years of development. Feature creep isn't something to be avoided at all costs, it's the inevitable result of a big project with many moving parts that ideas are proposed, loved, advance significantly towards being an integral part of the final project, then are dropped for various reasons. After all, if they're showing off visuals of something, that means that they thought it would be in the game. They didn't show it to you with the intention of downplaying it or leaving it on the cutting room floor, they showed it because they thought it was a cool thing you'd be excited about and would help give them momentum to continue development.

And Caitseith took issue with the terminology:

You repeat the term "ultimate space sim", but I don't know what it means in the first place. The term "ultimate" doesn't tell me anything that I can actually picture in my mind. I think the Ultimate Space Sim isn't achievable because the concept itself is too abstract to be a tangible goal (even if there were no limitations to be technically doable, chances are that what you see as ultimate isn't the same for the developers).

Garwulf #52, "Battle Royale America," sparked a short but interesting discussion. Mechamorph suggested the differences that might exist between an American and Japanese version of the story:

The original had a very strong undercurrent of horror to it, Japanese children have their lives revolve around their class for several years at a time. The sense of identity between classmates is usually stronger than in American culture. Giving weapons to American students and telling them to kill would end up closer to "Lord of Flies" really. The violence is more natural, more personal but it does lose some of the shock factor of the original.

And Thunderous Cacophony drew comparisons between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games:

The people in [The Hunger Games] know exactly what's happening and why, and many of them deliberately train for and enter the competition to win fabulous rewards, a competition that is broadcast to and influenced by the population at large. BR takes an entirely normal class, tells them they are in a nightmare, and murders one of them (who the others have known for years) to prove their point. It's much more about the personal scale and the breakdown of their society and cultural taboos, rather than the macro questions of why it's happening and how to stop it.

Garwulf #53, "The Agency of It All," had an unexpected result. While I had described the controversy as a storm in a teacup, it seems more likely to have been a storm in a thimble - many of the reader replies started by saying that this column was the first they had heard of it. That notwithstanding, there were, as always, some very good comments. Thaluikhain suggested that armpit hair might have been on the filmmakers radar if it had been present:

It's very [dis]ingenuous to claim that Wonder Woman's appearance is solely, or even mostly, Gal Gadot's decision. Now, it's likely that she happens to shave or wax her armpits, it's more common than not. In which case, being "normal", the filmmakers would have no reason to think about the issue. Presumably the normalisation, and not considering that things could be different was what the complaint was about.

Suppose that Gal Gadot choose not to shave or wax, and she was going to do the filming with noticeably hairy underarms. Certainly, that is not something the filmmakers would ignore, and almost certainly she'd be asked to remove her armpit hair. Her having hairy armpits on screen, playing an attractive female character, would be very unusual.

Hermes pointed out that it's not just the female superheroes who are without body hair in the comics, it's the male superheroes too, and added:

Comics and cartoons are not detailed depictions of characters, visually. Otherwise, we should be angry at Ian McKellen for not being a 60 years old body builder.

There is an issue of standards of beauty in the movie, but in comics and cartoon, it is more often about animators, inkers and artists not wanting to spend a lot of time on every single frame, or just trying to get everything to fit into their art style.

But the final word, I think, has to go to Chronologist, who provided one of the better reality checks I've seen on one of these issues:

Yeah, this sounds absolutely ridiculous. People seem to be drawing huge conclusions about agency and empowerment and the male gaze from something that, frankly, has nothing to do with any of those things. Some people don't mind having armpit hair. Some people find it uncomfortable. I shave my armpits because I like them smooth, not because of society or culture or anything else. This entire discussion is pointless.

Garwulf #54, "Punishing the Innocent," created an active discussion, but one that unfortunately did turn toxic - and this is a failure on my part. It is the job of the columnist to set the tone of the discussion and create a space where readers are free to discuss the content without feeling judged, and with Garwulf #54 this did not happen. So, my apologies to any readers who were affected.

That said, there were some very good comments. Thuluikhain argued that protests in foreign countries were indeed quite useful:

They might not change the other country, but they are a good way of telling other locals that you don't want that sort of thing within your own borders. In my experience, though, they are also a good way of diverting attention from your own issues. No country is perfect, and if you are protesting against something somewhere you can't do anything about, you aren't drawing attention to issues you might feel bad about not trying to fix. A few years back, a vicious gang rape in India got worldwide attention, including from people who were quietly ignoring vicious gang rapes in their own countries at about the same time.

Pyrian took issue with the terminology:

...Forget punishment. This isn't really about punishment at all - we're stretching the definition from the outset. This is about reward. Do we pay the innocent, knowing that some of that pay is going to the guilty? It's a fundamentally different question from punishing the innocent. These businesses have no moral right to your patronage in the first place. And the money you save can easily be spent in places that are, well, let's say less morally compromised. So, you can literally choose to reward the innocent more.

Same actions. You can call it "punish the innocent" but you can more accurately call it "reward the innocent". That's some messed up semantics.

Garwulf #55, "Useful Donkeys," sparked a short but interesting discussion. Jamcie Kerbizz suggested that the change the installment discussed had already happened:

It is just matter of old moguls not catching up fast enough to it. The idea of ad blocks and programme schedule is bankrupt with younger generation. Nobody in their right mind watches shows when the shows are aired. They watch things when they have time to watch them. Nobody in their right mind wastes time watching ad blocks, they fast forward through them or get services that don't interrupt the content with ads.

J.McMillen pointed out that at least some of the networks were starting to adapt:

I know in the [Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington] area, Fox wised up first. If they were broadcasting the late game which usually finished around 6-6:30pm, they wouldn't schedule anything other than sports wrap-up shows or possibly a rerun of one of their cartoons to fill the time till 7pm (when primetime starts in the central time zone). Apparently CBS has finally done the same and moved 60 Minutes to start at 7pm instead of whenever the late game ended.

Garwulf #56, "Dear Internet," generated a passionate and vigorous discussion. Thunderous Cacophony noted that I had been less than clear about what I was referring to, and correctly deduced that I was referring to people using archive websites to consume and discuss content while deliberately denying page views, as opposed to a general boycott where somebody does not consume any content from that source at all (and my apologies to the many people who were confused about that point, and who - correctly - argued against the position that nobody should be allowed to perform a general boycott).

DrownedAmmet managed to boil down most of the entire installment to a single paragraph (and express it with more clarity and elegance than I did):

I don't agree with the "more speech is always better" thing, but I do have a problem with people posting archive links of opinion pieces. You don't have to agree with an opinion piece to respect the time it took to write it, or to realize that the platform they put it on needs money to fund more opinion pieces. The beauty of opinion pieces is that you can disagree with them and have a discussion about it. I don't think it's right to discuss someone's work and go out of your way to make sure they don't get paid for it.

And in a long post that is very worth reading (and that I wish I had the space to quote in much greater depth), Callate wrote:

I've never put a link into an archive site; barring a little curious browsing on The Wayback Machine, I don't think I've used one, at least intentionally. But I confess that there are sites I've stopped visiting, not just because I disagreed with their opinions but because it began to make my stomach hurt that I was contributing, even in a small way, to their metrics; that even posting a disagreement was helping to push their traffic; that whether my curiosity was intellectual or morbid, I was implicitly lending credibility to the effectiveness of their awful tactics.

But I make my decisions for myself, and as I look at "blacklists" I can't help but wonder who's making the decision to act as judge, jury, and executioner for these sites.

And that's it - the last installment of Garwulf's Corner, at least for now. I won't say that it's the end forever, because I've been wrong on that at least twice before. But it is the end for the time being.

Back when I started the first run of this column all those years ago on Diabloii.net, the recurring element was humourous fruit references. Here on the Escapist, it's been a pair of phrases: "To be fair," and "To continue being fair." I really think we need more of that across the board.

I often wonder just how we're going to be remembered by the generations long after us on the issues so dear to our hearts. Will we be remembered as the ones who finally got it right and stopped treating transgenderism as a psychological illness, or the ones who legitimized and encouraged a body disassociative disorder? Will we be recalled as the ones who came to properly understand and accept the rights women have over their own bodies, or the ones who managed to one-up the ancient world when it came to killing unwanted children by not even waiting until they had been born? Will we go down in history as the ones who got down to properly addressing racism and sexism, or the ones who used it as an excuse to wrap ourselves up in self-indulgence while ignoring the actual problem?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions. Nobody does. I'd like to think that we get things right more often than we get them wrong, but only time will tell. And that's fine - I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm good with that. I think in cases like this uncertainty is a strength that keeps one's mind open, while certainty can be a weakness forcing one's mind shut. And maybe, just maybe, staying on the right side of history really does come down to being fair to others, and staying fair to them.

Either way, this column has come to a close, at least for now, and the ball is in our court - OUR court, because being fair and staying fair to others takes all of us. I'll keep holding up my end on this, and if everybody else holds up theirs, I think we might accomplish some amazing things together.

Robert B. Marks is the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, and Garwulf's Corner. His newest book, An Odyssey into Video Games and Pop Culture, is available in print and Kindle formats.

He also has a Livejournal and is on Facebook. You can find his current pop culture writing at Comics Gaming Magazine.

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